Handbook of Political Anthropology
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Handbook of Political Anthropology

Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen

This Handbook engages the reader in the major debates, approaches, methodologies, and explanatory frames within political anthropology. Examining the shifting borders of a moving field of enquiry, it illustrates disciplinary paradigm shifts, the role of humans in political structures, ethnographies of the political, and global processes. Reflecting the variety of directions that surround political anthropology today, this volume will be essential reading to understanding the interactions of humans within political frames in a globalising world.
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Chapter 25: The politics of ethno-religious violence

Madurika Rasaratnam


This chapter explores the interpenetration of religion and nationalism in contexts of empire and post-colonial states. Comparing the violence associated with Hindu nationalism in India and the violence of the Sinhala Buddhist–Tamil nationalist conflict in Sri Lanka, it seeks to unsettle the binaries of secular/nation-state and religion as well as the contrast between west and non-west. Whilst secular forms of nationalism are generally understood as the solution to religious conflicts, this chapter suggests that religion is often central to the processes of national state formation in the colonies and the metropole. This process is not inevitable: not all religions become nationalised, and the scope and extent of nationalised religions varies. However, and despite these differences, the comparative analysis of Hindu nationalism and the Sinhala Buddhist–Tamil nationalist conflict shows that religiously orientated violence is actually driven by nationalist logics and the nation-state rather than theology.

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